Living Single will forever go down as one of the most iconic shows in Black television. Many would argue that without the success of Living Single, shows like Friends would not have been created as it has been known to follow the same model. However, shows like Friends tend to get more of a push and go on to be more successful and visible than many Black shows that are the same quality, or even better. Actress Kim Coles is speaking up with claims that Fox built them up just to kick them out.
Living Single was a show created by Yvette Lee Bowser that debuted in August of 1993. Originally called “My Girls,” the show was changed to the title we all have come to know and love today just three weeks before it aired on television. Its cast was an array of actors from Queen Latifah to Kim Coles and Erika Alexander. Kim Coles played the lighthearted cousin of Khadijah James (Latifah) known as Synclaire James.
During its five seasons on Fox, Living Single went on to be nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards and multiple NAACP Image Awards. Three of the latter were given to the series including Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as Erika Alexander and Kim Coles receiving Outstanding Actress and Lead Actress awards, respectfully. Culturally, the show was impactful and continues to remain a hit on audiences as it is now available on streaming platforms. While on Fox, it would become one of their higher-rated shows. However, the network decided to cancel Living Single after 5 seasons in 1998. Soon, Fox began to shift their programming to more young adult programming as they felt it satisfied their core audience.
The dynamic in which Living Single depicted Black people was one of the main reasons why it was such a relatable and easily connectable show with audiences. So much so, that many similarities came about once Friends debuted on television. Queen Latifah once addressed the rumors on whether Friends was inspired by Living Single, confirming the rumors. “It was interesting because when Living Single came out, shortly thereafter Warren Littlefield – who was president of NBC, they asked him if he could have any show on television, any of the new shows, which one would it be? And he said, ‘Living Single,'” Latifah explained on The Late Late Show with James Corden. “And then next thing you know here comes Friends.”
As talks of a reunion still persist in 2021, many of the show’s original fans have wondered why it ended when it did. Kim Coles feels the same way in that she believes it could have had a longer run. Coles spoke with Entertainment Tonight and gave her take on the show’s ending. According to Coles, Fox acquired a new network president whose idea became to “change the tone of the network.”
She then explains that Fox had a tendency of changing the tone, yet not fully committing. “Fox put on Black programming and then it built up the network, and then they started to try to move away from it,” said Kim Coles. Around that same time, Living Single was on Fox’s programming, the network also aired shows like “Martin”, “In Living Color,” and “Sinbad.” Coles claims that during that time she did not think about how impactful the presence of those shows was as they did indeed build the network’s viewership. “It was later on [that] you go like, ‘wait a minute, we built this!'” Coles recalled. “We built this home, and yet they kicked us out [of] the house.” The actress then expressed that she’s not the type to stay where she’s not wanted. “If you don’t want me here, I’m going to go someplace else. I’ll be fine,” she insisted.
The cancellation of the show, she says, was a tough one for her and brought on a season of depression for the actress. Not being able to go to work every day with your friends/co-stars led to an “intense” shopping habit that she developed due to Living Single being off-air. But after she was given “40 sessions of therapy at a $20 copay” by the Screen Actors Guild, she was able to receive the help she needed and understand that a television show was not necessary for her to realize her gift.
Hear Kim Coles speak to Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier below on the subject.